On 30 January the Royal Thai Government announced the ratification of ILO Convention No. 188 on Work in Fishing, which sets out binding requirements regarding standards of decent work in the fishing sector. Thailand is the only country in ASEAN signing the Convention, which will enter into force on 30 January 2020, one year after ratification. Better living conditions expected on Thai board fishing vessels, since fishers now have one more legal tool to protect and improve their working conditions.

The Convention No.188 aims to prevent unacceptable forms of work for all fishermen, especially migrant fishermen. In particular, it provides regulations on recruitment process and investigation of complaints by fishermen. Additionally, the Convention sets minimum standards in relation to conditions of service, accommodation and food, occupational safety and health protection, medical care and social security. This will create an enabling environment to prevent forced labour, trafficking and other forms of abuse and exploitation.

Known as one of the most abusive industry, Thai fishing sector employs more than 600,000 workers, of which the majority encompasses migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. It is estimated that in Thailand there are around one million Cambodians, the second largest migrant group.

The ratification represents an important opportunity to improve Thai commercial fishing industry standards.

“Thailand is setting an excellent example for the region, being the first country in Asia to ratify this critically important convention”, said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “I look forward to other Asian countries soon following suit – Ryder added – particularly as the ILO aims to achieve a high number of ratifications in our Centenary year”.

The European Commission also congratulates the Thai Government on this international commitment. In a press release the Commission highlights “the efforts to tackle human trafficking and to improve labour conditions in the fishing sector. While not part of the bilateral dialogue on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the Commission and the European External Action Service have addressed with Thai authorities the serious human rights abuses and forced labour in the fishing industry”.

The European Commission moreover lifted “yellow card”, in place since April 2015, a warning from the EU that the country at the time was not sufficiently tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
According to Thai Ministry of foreign affairs, “these measures will attract more workers into the fisheries sector, thus alleviating the shortage of labour in this sector. It is anticipated that the legal enforcement will commence by mid-2019. At present, Thailand’s existing regulations of various agencies are already compatible with 80 percent of the provisions of the Convention”.

So far, the ILO Work in Fishing Convention has been ratified by 14 countries only: Angola, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Morocco, Namibia, Norway, Senegal, South Africa, United Kingdom and Thailand.

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